The best ever pitch question

by Martin MacConnol, CEO

With elections happening today, I showed my teenage daughters the mauling Ed Miliband suffered on Good Morning Britain when he didn’t know the cost of a weekly shop.

We agreed it was a bit like looking at Life on Earth as two lionesses pull down a wildebeest: all it needed was a David Attenborough voiceover.

Underneath the schadenfreude, I felt some sympathy for the man. It reminded me of the best ever question a client asked of Team Wardour at pitch. It was about 10 years ago at Camelot, the people who run the National Lottery.

We had spent weeks crafting our proposal. We had probed the brief, we had interviewed end users, we had created a brilliant content plan – in fact we had all the design, management and strategic issues at our fingertips. We were prepared with a capital ‘P’.

And the meeting went okay – in the way of big, formal pitches where you can’t truly tell if you are doing well or badly. Then, in a Columbo-style way, one of the prospective clients said: “One more thing before you go, how much is this Saturday’s draw worth?”

There were five of us on our side of the table. I’d like to say we knew the answer immediately. We didn’t. I’d then like to say we answered the question more gracefully than Ed did when tackling the shopping basket question. I’m not sure we did that either. I fear we blustered like politicians.

Ultimately, we still won the pitch – but at that moment I felt we had no right to. Whatever we said, we had not truly got to grips with the brand. We were not truly in touch with the audience.

It taught all of us a valuable lesson. Don’t overcomplicate things – don’t miss the obvious in a desire to dazzle.

Published May 22, 2014

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